Shawn Hammond used to love to talk about his days in the Army, but after 12 years as a civilian he thought those days were just memories.
That changed last month when the Augusta lawyer with the robust build and ready smile got orders to return to duty.
"I told them that I did not meet the current Army height and weight standards. They stated that they did not care because I would lose the weight in Iraq. I told the Army I was a single dad with three children. I told the Army that reporting was a financial hardship.
"The Army stated that if I did not report, I would be a deserter in a time of war," 1st Lt. Hammond said.
That brought him to full attention, he said last week in an interview from Fort Benning, where he was finishing the Tactics Certification Course at the U.S. Infantry School.
1st Lt. Hammond has practiced law in Augusta since March 1997, starting with Georgia Legal Services before opening his own practice.
But the Army wanted him not for his legal expertise, but his military experience.
1st Lt. Hammond is familiar with war zones, having served in Panama in the years leading up to the 1989 U.S. invasion. He also served in U.S. military efforts that destroyed illegal drug laboratories in Bolivia. Along the way, he received numerous military honors and training.
Despite his qualifications, the Army told him when he reported that he could resign his commission. He decided to stay.
"Just about everything good that I am today I owe to the Army. My father died in an auto accident when I was 5. Because of small-town, scum bag, greedy lawyers who looted my father's estate, my brothers and I grew up relatively poor," 1st Lt. Hammond said.
"When I got older, I enlisted in the Army for the GI bill. I did my time in Panama and other countries and then went to Augusta College. Later, due in part to my military service and my medals and decorations, I was able to go to law school on a full scholarship," he wrote in an e-mail.
His decision to stay doesn't surprise those who know him.
"Shawn is very involved with his children and their activities and their education. He is a very fine lawyer and a very devoted parent," said Augusta Circuit Superior Court Judge Michael Annis. "It's sad, therefore, that a single parent is forced into making this choice."
Colleague Sherry Barnes wasn't surprised at his choice: "I know he has always loved the military."
"Currently, I am in training at the infantry school with some of the bravest heroes I have ever met. Imagine, this old, fat lawyer side by side with a group of young Army Rangers who have all served in combat overseas and have lived to tell about it," 1st Lt. Hammond said.
"Of course, it all comes down to the fact that I know that with my experience, both in law and the military, that I can make a real difference in the lives of real soldiers. I believe that by my doing my job, whatever that job may ultimately be, one more real hero ... will be able to come home to his family.
"In the past when I represented the women from Safe Homes and recently representing the Senior Citizens Council, I used my skills and abilities to try to help people," 1st Lt. Hammond wrote. "This is no different from that, except now I get to lose weight in the process. Like I said before, it's the new Richard Simmons diet plan, sweatin' with the Iraqis."
1st Lt. Hammond, who said he dropped 20 pounds during the training, is expecting to receive new orders this week in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Reach Sandy Hodson at (706) 823-3226 or firstname.lastname@example.org.